The challenging math of passing immigration reform

Migrants' rights activists demonstrate outside the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.
(Eduardo Verdugo / Associated Press)

WASHINGTON – Senators from both parties are expressing enthusiasm for pushing a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration system.

But while immigration politics appears to have changed in the wake of sweeping Republican rejection by Latino voters last year, the math in the Senate may remain a challenge.

Fifty-four current senators were in office in 2007, the last time the chamber came close to advancing major immigration legislation.

Of those, opponents of the 2007 reforms outnumber supporters 31 to 23.

On the Republican side, just two senators who supported the 2007 legislation remain in office – Arizona Sen. John McCain and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

By contrast, 22 Republicans who opposed that legislation remain in office, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Among the other Republican lawmakers who opposed the 2007 plan are: Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Michael Barrasso (Wyo.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), Bob Corker (Tenn.), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Charles Grassley (Iowa), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), John Thune (S.D.) and David Vitter (La.)

Democrats still serving who opposed the legislation include: Max Baucus (Mont.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Mary Landrieu (La.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), John D. Rockefeller (W.Va.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Jon Tester (Mont.).

Democrats supporting the 2007 plan include: Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Tom Carper (Del.), Robert Casey (Penn.), Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), John F. Kerry (Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Harry Reid (Nev.), Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.).

The 2007 immigration compromise, which was strongly backed by then-President George W. Bush and senior Senate Democrats, collapsed when just 43 senators voted to advance the legislation.

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